Gift ideas for the oenophile who has it all

The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General published a study last month that found that gift givers should choose items that receivers sincerely desire rather than hunting for what the giver thinks is a considerate gift. According to Dr. Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago who co-authored the study, “The secret to being a good gift giver … is to give them what they want.”

With that in mind, if there is someone special on your list who has an interest in wine, I am here to help.

Most importantly, ignore all sense of whimsy, such as a doormat branded with the receiver’s last name (e.g., “Welcome to Chateau LaVallee”), aprons that proclaim “You had me at Merlot” or — my personal favorite — “The Entire Bottle of Wine Glass,” which is a stem that does, in fact, hold an entire bottle.

What follows are four gift ideas that promise to please even the most discriminating palate you know.

I am a traditionalist verging on a romantic when it comes to wine chillers. I enjoy everything about them: their myriad designs; the materials from which they are made (silver, copper and brass); the sound of the bottle settling into its icy bath. Despite my passion, I recognize formal chillers can be burdensome for casual daily use.

Thankfully, technology has provided a solution that is elegant, effective and simple: the Metrokane Rabbit Wine Chilling Carafe ($49.95). Rather than putting your wine bottle on ice, this glass carafe houses a stainless steel ice chamber that your wine surrounds. It holds a standard 750-milliliter bottle and can maintain an appropriate temperature for about an hour.

Every holiday season brings a glut of new wine and culinary books to the market. This year’s vintage produced an instant classic. Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours, by Janis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz (Ecco/HarperCollins, $125), is a complete, alphabetically presented encyclopedia with DNA-level profiles of all grape varieties, charting the relationships between them, including unique family trees, their characteristics in the vineyard and, most important, what the wines made from them taste like. With early reviews already hailing it as the most important wine book in decades, Wine Grapes is a must-have for wine lovers.

With so many different varietals being produced around the world, glassmakers are trying to keep pace. In the subculture of serious wine appreciation, fine stemware is both a basic need and great indulgence. Modern engineering, physiology and centuries-old craftsmanship are now converging to produce bowl and lip designs that deliver individual varietals to the precise location on your palate where it will be optimally received. Riedel — The Wine Glass Co. — has been the standard-bearer of innovation and perfection since the 18th century. With hundreds of unique glasses to choose from, there is no such thing as enough Riedel in any wine enthusiast’s collection. Gift certificates are exclusively available at

Among serious oenophiles, there is perhaps no more cherished possession than direct contact with top-quality wines and sharing the experience with others who also have a passion for them. Elite wine tastings are such occasions, and there are none better than the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting and Auction, held annually in Washington.

The event lasts four days, with intimate dinners at embassies and the city’s most exclusive addresses, a black-tie gala, a formal seated wine tasting narrated by a panel of Bordeaux’s leading winemakers and a tasting reception featuring chef stations.

Beyond being an unforgettable wine experience for attendees, the event has raised more than $11 million during the past 13 years for the American Heart Association. More information is available at

Happy holidays, and to paraphrase the Beaujolais Nouveau toast, may this coming year be better than the last but not as good as the following one.

Derek M. LaVallee, partner at Kemp Goldberg Partners and certified wine buff, can be reached at